Axel Alonso On Taking over the X-Men Group

Wed, September 13th, 2006 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer/Publisher

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With news of Executive Editor Axel Alonso's responsibilities growing to include oversight of the X-Men Group at Marvel Comics, we caught up with Alonso to see what this all means for him and the books he edits. For an earlier interview with Alonso in which he discusses the Spider-Man "Back in Black" event to come in February, 2007, click here

Axel Alonso at Comic-Con International, 2006
Hey Axel, congratulations on your expanded role at Marvel, which now includes X-Men Group Editor. So, let's start out with how the landscape has changed for you. Are you leaving any of the books you've been editing as the X-Office is brought under your guise?

I'm not abandoning the Marvel Universe books I've been working on. There will be a later announcement about where some of my books will be going and by my books I mean my office's book. I will continue to edit "Amazing Spider-Man," "Moon Knight," "Ghost Rider," "Black Panther," "Punisher War Journal," "Punisher" and the two Wolverine titles with my crew.

Who makes up your crew now?

My crew will consist of two guys who are already in the X-Office: Nick Lowe, who's being promoted to Editor. Shawn Ryan, who's Assistant Editor. Andy Schmidt, who is moving from Tom Brevoort's office to work with me as an Editor. And two guys I already work with now - Assistant Editor Daniel Ketchum and Assistant Editor Michael O'Connor.

As a group we will be absorbing the X-Office and there will be a few key titles that, for strategic reasons, will be moving to other offices as we make sense of the new arrangement.

What was the impetus for these changes?

[Former Marvel Editor] Mike Marts left the company [for DC Comics] and, as you always do, you make decisions about how to absorb the loss. Mike was leaving and Joe Quesada and Dan Buckley thought it would be a good idea. They came to me and asked me what I thought and I said great.

The X-Office is probably the highest profile of the editorial offices at Marvel and also comes under the most scrutiny from fans. Is being under that large a microscope something you have to deal with as an editor?

Oh, I think I've always been under a large microscope. When I came here there were petitions to get me fired before I had done anything!

Really?

Yeah, with "Amazing Spider-Man.." For me, I take everything with a grain of salt. The most important thing is that the books I'm working on are selling. I hear criticism and I listen to what's being said out there, but I don't make my decisions based on the criticism I might get on the Internet or what have you.

There are people I work with - writers, artists and other editors - whose opinions I value and I pay close attention to those. There will be a lot of people who will say negative things about me and those who will say positive things. Ultimately, this is all kind of silly because at the end of the day this is a team effort and the Group Editor may be the person who presides over the whole thing, but the individual editors and assistants factor in the day-to-day in a major way.

Which books do you see yourself most actively working on?

We're determining that right now. I know that during this period of transition that I want Nick and Shawn to continue doing what they've been doing in the X-Men Office and, quite frankly, step up. I don't anticipate that I'm going to be affecting the publishing plan in any profound way for 8 - 12 months. What it comes down to is that's the lead time you need to affect any sort of change. Sometimes you have to wait longer because the people you begin to dialogue with aren't available immediately, anyway.

The long and short of it is that right now I already story edit all the books I work on where I'm credited as editor. On a book like "Sensational Spider-Man," Warren Simons, my associate editor, he functions as the editor and is credited as such. So, if I'm lucky, I'd get a consulting editor credit. I'm always aware of the story mapping with the Spider-Man books even if I'm not doing the line editing.

With the Wolverine books I'm deeply involved. "Moon Knight" and launches like "Punisher War Journal" I'm deeply involved in. I also have very able assistants who help me. Michael O'Connor plays a huge role in the Daniel Way books - "Wolverine: Origins" and "Ghost Rider." He's an indispensable part of the team in that regard, so his contributions can't be underplayed.

What it comes down to is there are scripts that need hard editing and there are scripts that don't. I'll always have time for things like Kaare Andrews "Spider-Man: Reign." That takes up a lot of my time because I have a deep passion for that project and I've got a number like those that are still in development and I don't plan on jettisoning those. Often times people ask what does an Editor do and sometimes we really have to edit the fuck out of something and sometimes we don't. Sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's hard.

Taking a look at all the books that will be under your purview, where do you see your immediate attention needed the most?

Well, what I think what it's really about is thinking about a publishing plan beyond what's planned right now. You know, figuring out what to do when Joss Whedon and John Cassaday ride off into the sunset. How do you replace something like that, who do you replace it with and what's your strategy?

As for what are my plans are immediately, what I do know is I'm taking a good hard look at the characters and am trying to figure with my assistants and writers and other creators, why would someone get super excited about a character like Psylocke or Cable or Bishop in the first place? Who were they when they were created? At what point in time were they hitting on the most cylinders? When is it best to try and spring board ideas and go to writers? When is it right to encourage writers to pitch to you? I think one of the vulnerabilities of the X-Men line is making those offshoot series work. We haven't had a great track record with having books stick in the long term with the single characters. Is it because there's no interest in that, or is there a strategy that can bear fruit? I take a look at a character like Cable and I'll tell you that I think he can sustain an ongoing book. I think one of the goals of mine will be to get an ongoing Cable book up and running, not immediately but at some point, that circs high and people get really excited about.

When you first came to Marvel, one of the things you did is you also brought in a number of more independently minded books like "The Megalomaniacal Spider-Man" by Peter Bagge. Any plans to get back to that kind of stuff?

When I came to the company it was a different era. The long and short is I still have relationships with all the people who I first began with. I've got Corben working on "Ghost Rider." I've got Peter Milligan writing a Namor project. I've got a lot of long-term relationships with people who I could very well end up turning loose on these books. I've had a number of interesting phone calls from people saying, "Dude, I hear you're X-Men Editor now, let's talk" that would raise people's eyebrows. I'm intrigued by all of this and look forward to where it goes.

So do we, Axel. Thanks!

 
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